Without Merit

Without Merit

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Slammed series

Hopeless duology 

Standalones

Synopsis:

The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a repurposed church, newly baptized Dollar Voss. The once cancer-stricken mother lives in the basement, the father is married to the mother’s former nurse, the little half-brother isn’t allowed to do or eat anything fun, and the eldest siblings are irritatingly perfect. Then, there’s Merit.

Merit Voss collects trophies she hasn’t earned and secrets her family forces her to keep. While browsing the local antiques shop for her next trophy, she finds Sagan. His wit and unapologetic idealism disarm and spark renewed life into her – until she discovers that he’s completely unavailable. Merit retreats deeper into herself, watching her family from the sidelines, when she learns a secret that no trophy in the world can fix.

Fed up with the lies, Merit decides to shatter the happy family illusion that she’s never been a part of before leaving them behind for good. When her escape plan fails, Merit is forced to deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth and losing the one boy she loves.

Thoughts:

I have been meaning to read this book for ages, so I’m glad I found the time to fit it in. I’m very much trying to get through some backlist books this year and this was one of them. I had heard mixed reviews about Without Merit, so I was intrigued to get into the story and find out what it was all about. Whilst I can see why some would have issue with this book, I found it to be highly addictive and interesting to read.

Merit Voss lives with a very dysfunctional family. She is also pretty dysfunctional herself. The trouble is, Merit is keeping so many secrets from family members. There’s only so much she can take. The story opens with Merit searching for a trophy. She has a bit of an obsession with collecting trophies that she hasn’t earned. She comes across a good looking guy called Sagan and has a bit of a moment with him. She later finds out that he is unavailable but very close to home. The story follows Merit as she watches her family from the sidelines, never really feeling part of the family. When Merit reveals the family secrets she has to deal with the consequences of her actions..

Merit is an incredibly intense and confused character. She goes through so much and becomes resentful of her family. It takes Merit a while to realise how affected she’s been by her past. I really respected that part of the story. Merit’s mental health is all over the place but she’s not prepared to acknowledge that. It’s so realistic. I think she will be a character that many readers will be able to identify with.

There is so much going on in this story. Perhaps a little too much? Sometimes I couldn’t believe that the family were having such bad luck. I know there’s dysfunctional families but this one really did experience so much…There are many themes in this story and although Colleen Hoover is a great writer, I thought if there had been a focus on just a few themes, it would’ve been a deeper read.

That said, this book did hook me from the start. I loved Merit’s story, I liked and disliked characters. I wanted everything to be okay for Merit. It’s definitely one to check out if you’re a fan of the author.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Whilst this wasn’t my favourite book by Colleen Hoover, I devoured it and was moved by the story which is tough to read at points!

Advertisements

Before I Let Go

Before I Let Go

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
This Is Where It Ends

Synopsis:

Best friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. When Corey moves away, she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long, dark winter, and wait for her return.

Just days before Corey is to return home to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated―and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town’s lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she’s a stranger.

Corey knows something is wrong. With every hour, her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets―chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter…

Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Marieke’s debut novel, so I was excited to give Before I Let Go a try. I had heard very mixed reviews about this book- so I’ve somewhat taken my time with getting around to it. However, like always, I always give a book a good go and that’s what I did with this one. There were things that I absolutely loved about it, however, I did get confused at points which is why this book wasn’t rated a 4 star read for me.

Before I Let Go is centred in Lost Creek, which is an isolated community in Alaska. The story follows Corey and Kyra’s friendship. Corey and Kyra used to be really close until Corey moved away. Corey goes back to Lost Creek and finds herself an outcast. Kyra had some troubles and died a tragic death. Corey feels like she’s the only one that remembers what Kyra was like. Despite the community being cold towards her, Corey is determined to find out answers.

There’s no denying that Marieke Nijkamp is a fantastic writer. There’s something about her writing that completely pulls me in and keeps me captivated. Lost Creek is certainly a well written, creepy setting and I was desperate to find out more about it. I also really enjoyed the friendship between Corey and Kyra. It was clear that they really did care for one another. I am all for the representation of mental health as well. I don’t have much knowledge of bipolar disorder but I feel, from what I know, it was an accurate representation.

The reason why I dropped this book half a star is because I felt the plot didn’t immerse me enough. I kept on reading because the writing was simply beautiful. However, I didn’t care for what was going on and I kept searching for something to really grip me or shock me. Perhaps, the beauty of this book lies in the fact that it doesn’t have a complex plot.

I would definitely read more from Marieke. She’s a super talented writer, this plot just didn’t work entirely for me, however, I can imagine many would love it!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A decent read. Marieke is a great writer, I just wasn’t blown away by the story itself!

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes?

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes?

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

Welcome to Camp Reset, a summer camp with a difference. A place offering a shot at “normality” for Olive, a girl on the edge, and for the new friends she never expected to make – who each have their own reasons for being there. Luckily Olive has a plan to solve all their problems. But how do you fix the world when you can’t fix yourself?

Thoughts:

I am slowly making my way through Holly Bourne’s books. She’s an author that I’ve always heard a lot about. I’ve heard her speak at a few events and I’m always impressed with her. I’m going to make it my mission in 2019 to catch up with her backlist books, as I always enjoy her books when I’m reading them. She’s an author that really gets mental health and I’m definitely here for that.

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? is a YA read about a group of teens that go to Camp Reset to try and learn how to be ‘normal.’ Whilst there, Olive, our main protagonist meets new friends that she’d never have expected. They all have their own backstories and reasons why they’re there. Olive comes up with a plan to solve their problems. However, how will Olive manage to save everyone else when she has trouble helping herself?

I love Holly Bourne’s writing style. She’s so honest about mental health. When she creates characters that have mental health issues, she really nails it. Their experiences with mental health are so raw and real. I love that she doesn’t have a magic cure for her characters. Mental health is messy and Holly Bourne always portrays that so well.

I loved that each character was so well developed. The character growth was impressive. They were all flawed but every single thing that they did or experienced didn’t seem contrived at all. All of their actions were totally believable.

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? message is about challenging what normal is. It talks about whether it’s the world and what happens to us that affects mental health. I liked the idea of challenging labels and thinking how we can use kindness to overcome problems including (most importantly) kindness to your self. Aww.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fantastic reading experience. Holly Bourne is a champion of YA mental health representation. 

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

How did I get it?:
I was sent a copy from the publisher, Walker Books.

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

Fourteen-year-old Stevie lives in Lewes with her beloved vinyl collection, her mum … and her mum’s depression. When Stevie’s mum’s disability benefits are cut, Stevie and her mother are plunged into a life of poverty. But irrepressible Stevie is determined not to be beaten and she takes inspiration from the lyrics of her father’s 1980s record collection and dreams of a life as a musician. Then she meets Hafiz, a talented footballer and a Syrian refugee. Hafiz’s parents gave their life savings to buy Hafiz a safe passage to Europe; his journey has been anything but easy. Then he meets Stevie… As Stevie and Hafiz’s friendship grows, they encourage each other to believe in themselves and follow their dreams. 

Thoughts:

It’s been a while since I’ve read Siobhan Curham’s work, but oh my goodness it was lovely to get back to her writing. There’s something about Siobhan’s writing that makes me feel like I’m wrapped up in a cosy blanket. Her books are adorable and so heartfelt.

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow centres around Stevie and Hafiz. Stevie is a bit of an outsider at school. She’s dealing with a lot. Her father died a few years prior and her mother became incredibly depressed. She was unable to look after herself so certainly was neglecting Stevie’s needs. Stevie struggles to get food together and her uniform is a bit small/worn. Stevie does a paper round to try and raise some more funds. She’s also saving for a guitar because music is what makes her feel better.

Hafiz has just travelled to the UK from Syria to live with his Aunt and Uncle. He’s left his family behind and is feeling incredibly worried about their safety. Hafiz has a passion for football as an escape from his problems. He is soon picked for the school team, however, he has some troubles fitting in with some of the team who only see him as a refugee. Stevie and Hafiz are put together on Hafiz’s first day of school. The two become close and develop a friendship that supports one another. They both search for their own stories and attempt to find their purpose in life.

I really enjoyed this book because it felt realistic to the world that we live in today. I really loved Stevie and Hafiz’s friendship. The characters felt so well developed that it felt like they were real people that I was observing. I loved the alternate chapters because I wanted to read more from their points of view. I never felt confused with who was narrating a chapter. Each character had their own identity. This book really makes you think about others. It packs a powerful punch, that’s for sure. I also appreciated the focus on mental health. We do need to be speaking about it more and I was impressed with the representation of depression in this story.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A wonderful read! It touched my heart.

This Is Not A Love Letter

This Is Not A Love Letter

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

One week. That’s all Jessie said. A one-week break to get some perspective before graduation, before she and her boyfriend, Chris, would have to make all the big, scary decisions about their future–decisions they had been fighting about for weeks.

Then, Chris vanishes. The police think he’s run away, but Jessie doesn’t believe it. Chris is popular and good-looking, about to head off to college on a full-ride baseball scholarship. And he disappeared while going for a run along the river–the same place where some boys from the rival high school beat him up just three weeks ago. Chris is one of the only black kids in a depressed paper mill town, and Jessie is terrified of what might have happened.

As the police are spurred to reluctant action, Jessie speaks up about the harassment Chris kept quiet about and the danger he could be in. But there are people in Jessie’s town who don’t like the story she tells, who are infuriated by the idea that a boy like Chris would be a target of violence. They smear Chris’s character and Jessie begins receiving frightening threats.

Every Friday since they started dating, Chris has written Jessie a love letter. Now Jessie is writing Chris a letter of her own to tell him everything that’s happening while he’s gone. As Jessie searches for answers, she must face her fears, her guilt, and a past more complicated than she would like to admit.

Thoughts:

I wanted to read this book after finding out about it at the end of last year. I loved its simple cover and the title made me wonder what it was going to be about. I found this book to be utterly gripping and I devoured it quickly, not expecting it to be as deep as it was.

This Is Not A Love Letter centres around Jessie. Her boyfriend Chris used to send her love letters every Friday since they started dating. Jessie never wrote back to him however much she appreciated them. Chris suddenly disappears after Jessie called for a week’s break on their relationship. Jessie starts to write letters to Chris detailing what happened whilst he was missing. Jessie has a lot of guilt over events that have happened or conversations that were said during their relationship. As the book progresses, Jessie starts to pour out more details. Could it be that Chris was a victim of racial hate crime?

As we read through the story, we learn more about the people in Chris’s life. We learn more about what he is like as a person. Little snippets of information about him start to come through during Jessie’s interactions with others. At the start of the story, we don’t learn much from the detectives. It is not until he had been missing for longer that they started to take notice. This book really is difficult to categorise. Is it a love story? Is it a mystery? It really has a slice of both genres.

It was interesting to see how the author slipped in the possibility that it could be a racial hate crime after Chris had experienced some hate from others in the community. Chris is the only black baseball player in the town and had achieved a full scholarship which made him resented by other baseball players. Kim Purcell has been very clever with this book as she created so many possibilities for what had happened to Chris. It is revealed that he has suffered with mental health problems in the past, so when that is revealed, you wonder if he could have done something to himself.

This book really was a pleasure to read and whilst very sad in points, I thought it was beautifully written. I really enjoyed reading Jessie’s letters to Chris which became more and more intimate and touching as the story progressed. I felt like she began to know herself better and become closer to those around her.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

An unexpected beautiful read. I didn’t expect to enjoy this book so much!

Notes On A Nervous Planet

Notes on a Nervous Planet

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

The world is messing with our minds.

Rates of stress and anxiety are rising. A fast, nervous planet is creating fast and nervous lives. We are more connected, yet feel more alone. And we are encouraged to worry about everything from world politics to our body mass index.

– How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad? 
– How do we stay human in a technological world?
– How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious?

After experiencing years of anxiety and panic attacks, these questions became urgent matters of life and death for Matt Haig. And he began to look for the link between what he felt and the world around him.

Notes on a Nervous Planet is a personal and vital look at how to feel happy, human and whole in the 21st century.

Thoughts:

I absolutely adored Reasons To Stay Alive. I thought it was such a raw, honest look at depression and anxiety from someone who truly knows how it feels. I thoroughly enjoyed Notes On A Nervous Planet which looks at how technology and the media is affecting our minds.

Notes On A Nervous Planet is an important book because it really explores how technology now can affect our mental health. Goodness knows social media isn’t all that it’s made out to be. We only see segments of people’s lives that they choose to share. Yet we still let ourselves be affected by what we see online. Matt Haig speaks openly and honestly about the dangers of technology and social media and how it has impacted his life.

I love how in both of his books he writes short, witty chapters. Within the pages there’s so much insight though. Matt Haig is a writer that really makes me think. I love the advice he gives as well on how to be happier today. He had some great tips that definitely made me stop, think and discuss with friends. Not many authors can do that.

Reading a Matt Haig non-fiction book makes me feel like I’m talking to a wise friend. I adore Matt’s writing style and his honesty. He honestly made me feel like this messy world could and should be a happier place.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Whilst I preferred Reasons To Stay Alive, I still thought this book was incredible. Matt Haig writes such insightful things that really resonate with me.

The Astonishing Color Of After

The Astonishing Color of After

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

Thoughts:

You may have noticed that I read a range of new and older releases. I like to try and read some debut authors in the year they publish, so I’ve been making it my mission to read some 2018 debuts over my holiday. I decided to check out The Astonishing Color Of After and I’m so pleased I did. It’s a really beautifully written novel and it astounds me that it is Emily X. R. Pan’s debut. It reads like an incredibly established author had written it. Warning: This book does deal with some very heavy topics so if that’s something that upsets you, then perhaps this book won’t be for you.

It centres around Leigh, whose mother has died by suicide. Leigh’s mother was suffering from depression but Leigh hadn’t realised that things had got so bad. Leigh believes that her mother has come back as a bird and is trying to tell her something about her past. Leigh travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents and to find out more about her family. Her mother hid so much from her. She wants to know why but doesn’t expect to uncover family secrets. As Leigh gets to know her grandparents she learns more about herself than she ever anticipated, despite a language barrier.

I thought this book was really special. It is quite long, but it doesn’t feel like it’s dragging. I’m not usually a massive fan of character driven novels but this one really was a masterclass. Again, my mind boggles at how this book is a debut. I felt so much for Leigh, she was dealing with so much, so young. I also appreciated how Leigh was biracial. I haven’t read many books with biracial characters.

I absolutely loved the magical realism element of this story. If you don’t enjoy magical realism, please don’t avoid this book. It’s written in such a way that it adds to beauty of the story.

This book is special because it discusses how the Asian and American cultures can view depression. In no way does it glamorise suicide and depression and I highly respect that. This book should get people talking openly about mental health.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

This book did feel a little long to me, but I loved the idea and the inclusion of magical realism!